Littleton native, Team Colorado AAA captain Sanstra staying home for college, commits to CU
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This season playing for the Team Colorado AAA 19U team, Jess Sanstra wanted to do all she could to set herself up to play college hockey next season.
With her commitment to the University of Colorado, the Littleton native has her college years planned out for her.
“Playing for CU has always been in my choices of schools for playing college hockey,” said Sanstra, this season’s 19U captain for Team Colorado AAA. “I know a lot of girls on the team that I have played with in my youth hockey ages. Those girls talk highly of the program and love where they are at. Midway through the season, I started to think about what I really wanted, what will make me happy. And that’s when CU came to mind. I know the school, it is close to home, and I knew that was the best decision for me and my future.
“What appealed to me about the school was the love and drive these girls have for hockey. The culture that CU has made for itself. I had been doing their camps that they have throughout the summer growing up and I had always imagined myself playing there. The current players that ran the camp were always so welcoming and passionate about the team they were playing on, and to me, that is so important to have that healthy culture.”
Academically, Sanstra said CU is a big state school and is well known around the country.
“Having a diploma from CU is an amazing achievement and will set me up for future success,” Sanstra said. “As of right now, I applied to the school undecided, but I am leaning more towards a major in Sociology. I am fascinated to learn about people and the different types of cultures, and why people have certain types of behaviors. I would also like a minor in either marketing or communications as well.”
Buffs coach Kevin Dessart knows the future is bright for Sanstra.
“Jess’ leadership and ability will be very impactful for the Buffs,” Dessart said. “A great, strong skater and dynamic player, I’m looking forward seeing her in a Buffs jersey next season.”
Growing up, Sanstra started playing for the Colorado Select, and was there for seven years.
“My last year there, Hannah Westbrook was my coach for the 14U AA team,” said Sanstra. “That year, I was pushed to be the best of my ability and the team worked our way to nationals that year. Playing for Hannah taught me to respect the game, push myself, and to be the best person and teammate I could be. She still to this day will always be a mentor to me. She brought me to the next level.”
The next season, Sanstra played at the North American Hockey Academy in Stowe, Vt., for her eighth and ninth grade years.
“I developed as a player and also as an individual but started to lose love for the game,” admitted Sanstra. “I came back home and played two years for the Littleton Hawks. Troy Watts was the coach and he helped me find love for the game again. He was supportive and understanding and put so much time and effort in for the girls. After my season with Littleton, I decided to go play for Team Colorado my junior and senior year. Brent Bohn, Ian Glupker, and Kyle Meehan coached both seasons for TC. There have been ups and downs in the two years I played for them, but they never gave up on me.
“Not only have they developed me to be a better hockey player, they also made me a better teammate and person. All of the time and energy into booking trips, coaching, driving to and from the rink, traveling, winning, losing, they wouldn’t want to have it any other way. They were so excited when I told them I wanted to go to CU.”
As a member of four teams that won Colorado state championships, Sanstra said those experiences will stay with her forever.
“Those are the best memories – working so hard all season, then being able to celebrate with your team that you are state champs – but going to nationals is one of the best,” said Sanstra. “Being able to play against some of the best girls in the nation. It is a feeling I will never forget.”
And to think that Sanstra simply started playing hockey because all of her neighbors did.
“Everyone was rollerblading playing street hockey in the summer,” remembered Sanstra. “Then when winter rolled around, they were at the ice rink playing hockey, so I decided to go to learn to skate. I had no problem ice skating because I could roller blade and the next season, I started at five and a half playing on the Select 8U team. Being that young, you are learning the basics while playing fun games on the ice to keep us engaged and that was so much fun to me and kept me hooked.
“And as the years go on, you get better and better and soon, I wanted to keep pushing to get better and better and that is when I got hooked.”
Now, Sanatra has reachable aspirations in mind going forward.
“My long-term goal in hockey was just to play throughout college,” Sanstra said. “I just wanted to keep playing for as long as I can while also getting an education. I maybe one day want to come back to my hometown and coach the teams I played for growing up. I want to give back and grow the game of hockey in Colorado. I want to give these young ladies someone to look up to who has been in the position they are in now.
“Team Colorado is an amazing association for girls who want to play at the top tier level in their state. Not only are you playing AAA hockey, but you also get to represent your state. Playing TC this year, the girls have really made some noise for Colorado hockey and it is only up from here. The more girls who want to play hockey no matter what age I highly encourage to do. We grow the game by making others better around us. We are a community top to bottom. No matter what association you play for, the girls hockey community is a family.”
— Matt Mackinder
(March 12, 2021)